As we usher in fall before you know it winter will be here with temperatures plummeting. This is the perfect time to get your heavy-duty cooling systems prepared for the harsh season ahead, especially if you are in a region that experiences average winter temperatures below 32° F / 0° C.
Coolant does more than just keep the system from freezing, equally important it prevents corrosion, lubricates shaft seals, increases the boiling point, and impedes cavitation. Coolant analysis can ensure the coolant chemistry is adequate for protecting the whole system and is free from contaminants.
Other considerations are determining what type of coolant is in the system and what is needed to properly maintain the fluid. Mixing certain coolant formulations can cause serious protection deficiencies leaving the system vulnerable to damage and failure.
Impacts of Mixing Coolants
Before the mid 80’s identifying coolants was not an issue, since the formulations were low silicate conventional inorganic inhibited blends. Engines and the materials used to manufacture cooling system components have evolved to reduce emissions and have become more fuel-efficient. With these improvements, coolant formulations have also evolved to handle the added heat load these systems are producing, provide better stability and protection of these components.
Today there are several types of coolants available for heavy-duty diesel and gas engines but these formulations are very different and mixing them can cause issues. Many OEMs are moving away from nitrited coolants due to aluminum radiators being introduced into heavy-duty applications. These radiators are assembled using a process called Controlled Atmosphere Brazing (CAB). Some coolants will react with the surface weld and cause a failure issue. The Nitrite Free (NF) 2nd generation extended life coolants are more compatible with these newer design radiators.
Trying to determine the type of coolant currently in a system cannot be determined just by color. Coolant manufacturers will often use color as an identifier for each of their different formulations but they have also been known to use a different color for the same coolant technology packaged for their OEM customers. This makes it more challenging for the end-user.
Mixing coolants will not cause a chemical reaction to occur but what it can do is dilute the additives in the coolants to a point they no longer are adequate to provide protection, again leaving the system vulnerable to corrosion and damage. Coolants can tolerate about 15% mixing before it becomes a real issue. The best practice is to know the formulation in the system and if it is compatible with your bulk coolant.
Ensuring the coolant is ready for optimal protection through this harsh season also plays a role in protecting the engine, transmission, and hydraulic lubrication systems. High coolant temperatures can cause high oil temperatures which can lead to reducing viscosity, increases oil oxidation, and contributes to eventual component failures. Heat is by far the chief issue we deal with today in our modern engines, even during the cold winter months. It has become increasingly important to stop guessing if the coolant is ready to protect the system and components. Having your coolant analyzed by Bureau Veritas can give you peace of mind that your investment is protected and mitigate the loss of revenue due to unscheduled downtime.